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Champ or Chump: Vidal Brujan

With the All-Star Break upon us, it's the perfect time to look at your league's standings page and figure out how best to approach the second half. If you aren't on pace to reach your innings and/or games played limits, you should definitely look to maximize your games played moving forward. If you could gain a lot of category points with more homers and steals, you may have to "overpay" and make a deal that doesn't make sense in any other circumstance.

If you're hurting for stolen bases, top prospect Vidal Brujan may be the solution you've been searching for. He's ranked as the 15th best prospect in all of baseball, but he hasn't had the attention generally afforded to top prospects because Wander Franco both outranks him and came up first. Still, Brujan might be the better player for fantasy purposes.

The reason why is elite speed that can single-handedly change a fantasy team's performance in the category. Brujan isn't guaranteed a starting job and his .111/.111/.111 triple-slash line in nine PAs thus far won't change that, though his xBA of .874 provides plenty of hope that he'll turn it around. Let's take a closer look at the 23-year-old's resume.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

The Scouts Are Sold

Scouting grades are a fine place to start when evaluating a prospect, and Brujan's are strong. Take a look at how the FanGraphs scouting team scored his skills:

Seventy-grade speed is what most appeals to fantasy managers, but it becomes especially appealing when attached to league-average contact skills that project as plus-plus in the future. His power doesn't look like much, but that it's expected to improve means that he might not be a total zero in the category. His glove is graded as at least average too, leading to a 60 FV that is normally reserved for the best of the best.

It's always good to grab a second opinion, so here are MLB.com's scouting scores:

We see the same thing here: great wheels, strong contact skills, below-average power that isn't a total zero, and a solid glove. Since the grades are virtually identical between the two scouting reports, we can assume that a consensus exists regarding what Brujan is and will be. If you watched the recent MLB Draft, you know that such agreement isn't always the case.

 

Tantalizing Upside

Raw speed is nice, but it also helps if fleet-footed prospects actually steal a bunch of bases on the farm. Brujan did exactly that, swiping 48 bags in just 429 PAs in 2019 and pilfering 55 in 548 PAs in 2018. He was caught stealing 13 times for a success rate of 79% in '19 and 19 times for 74% in '18, so even an analytically-inclined organization like the Rays should give him the green light. He also swiped 15 at Triple-A this season (with a 79% success rate) and notched his first at the MLB level in his first game, so it doesn't seem like he's slowing down at all.

Brujan's minor league performance also improved substantially this season. He debuted in the high minors in 2019, slashing .266/.336/.391 with three homers and 24 steals in 233 PAs. His plate discipline was solid with an 8.6 BB% and 15 K%, but his .304 BABIP wasn't anything to write home about. His FB% was 28.9% while his HR/FB was 6%, making him look like a guy who would hurt fantasy managers in the power categories.

The Rays started Brujan at Triple-A this year and nearly all of his numbers improved at the higher level. He hit .259/.344/.471 with nine homers and 15 steals in 216 PAs, substantially upping his BB% to 11.6 while keeping his K% roughly constant at 15.7. Meanwhile, his FB% spiked to 39.7 while his HR/FB surged to 15, numbers that would support 20-HR campaigns over a full season. The extra flies likely contributed to his BABIP falling to .272, but fantasy managers will trade a few batting average points for usable power numbers and elite steals.

Notably, the switch-hitting Brujan has substantially more pop from the left-handed batter's box (against RHP). This may be actionable information in DFS and leagues with daily roster moves.

 

How Will the Rays Use Brujan?

Brujan hasn't started every game since he was called up, but he hit fifth twice and sixth once in his three starts thus far. That's fairly aggressive for a brand-new callup who isn't known for his pop, so it's safe to assume that the Rays believe he will succeed. Brujan also has professional experience at SS, 2B, and the outfield, making him a versatile weapon that Kevin Cash (and fantasy managers) can plug into the lineup in multiple ways.

Brujan is only 42% rostered in Yahoo! leagues right now, meaning that nearly 60% of you can roll the dice on his excellent upside for free. You can never be positive how top prospects will fare in their first taste of big-league action, but Brujan has the speed and plate discipline skills to be a Champ right out of the box.



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